Entrepreneurs step up to share stories of achievement in adversity for Humber Business Week

09th May

Some of the Humber’s most successful entrepreneurs are looking forward to coming together during Business Week to share ideas about how to survive and thrive in the face of the impact of a pandemic and a war.

The presence of well-known entrepreneurs Professor David Hall, Dr Paul Sewell, chairman of Sewell Group and a co-founder of Biz Week, and Rob Daysley, MD of Designs Signage Solutions to lead the discussion on Succeeding in Chaos – How Entrepreneurs do it, has attracted an array of rising stars and established heavyweights from the regional community.

Many will bring their own stories of how they kept moving when competitors were left paralysed by the pandemic. All expect to learn from the session, which is free to attend and takes place at the MKM Stadium in Hull on Monday, June 6.

David, a business “helper” who has guided countless successful organisations over his 40-year career, published his fifth book, Telling Tales, during the first lockdown and has been waiting for the opportunity to bring the pages to life at a physical event.

He said: “It shows how quickly things can change that when the book came out we were thinking of bringing people together to explore what makes an entrepreneur but now it’s all about combating chaos – how have people tackled the last two years and how can they prepare for what’s next?

“We’ve had a fantastic response with a wide range of entrepreneurs booking their places and that’s exactly what we want. We’re planning an immersive experience – not a lecture – and we know there will be people in the room who turned the threat of the pandemic into an opportunity. They’re going to tell us how they did that, and I can’t wait to hear them!”

Sally Wray (pictured), who had only taken over tool and equipment hire specialist GoHire in 2015, expanded in October 2020 with the acquisition of another business that gave her a presence in Grimsby and opened her second Hull branch early in 2021.

She said: “We’ve increased the staff from nine to 24 over the last two years and have sailed into unknown territory. With one branch everything was straightforward but suddenly we had three types of everything!

“I read about how in a recession you should cut back on costs, but we started spending and taking more risks when opportunities presented themselves.

“Hopefully we will look back in a year and think it was well worth it. Nothing ever stays still and if we are not growing we are dying.

“I’m looking forward to the event because I enjoy hearing David speaking and I like his no-nonsense approach. Paul is also an interesting character and I sat with Rob on a panel at a previous business week.”

Mike Smith, managing director of communications provider Cobus, went into the pandemic during his company’s 30th year on the back of a record month and suddenly faced the need to adapt quickly to help clients maintain contact with their customers.

He said: “We had to ensure that our several hundred business customers were able to continue trading. Not an easy feat, and our resilience was tested as we strived to provide the best possible service levels whilst experiencing our own challenges – there was a degree of firefighting!

“When it became clear the lockdown wasn’t short-term, we again adapted our strategy and still today we are helping many new customers set-up business continuity plans for peace of mind, to be ready for the unknown.

“We’re looking forward to hearing how other businesses and leaders have got through the last two years and their predictions for the future.”

Shaun Watts, chairman of Chameleon Business Interiors, more than doubled the size of his business and expanded his team from 18 to 37 after taking bold decisions from the outset.

He said: “I took on more people when lockdown happened. It was a risk but I felt there would be people who needed work doing and if their staff were all furloughed someone would have to do the job. All our competitors were closing their doors.

“There were the challenges of dealing with significant growth, with the supply chain faltering and trying to backfill the roles required when labour was difficult to find.

“I want to hear from some other people who have come up with really good ideas themselves and navigated through this and have more experience than me. You are always learning something new.”

Succeeding in Chaos – How Entrepreneurs do it will take place in the 1904 Lounge at the MKM Stadium in Hull as part of Humber Business Week from 11am until midday on Monday, June 6.

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